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Girls Basketball: Noll, Wheeler open with sectional wins

Bowman Academy's Kailynn Steele shoots against Bishop Noll during River Forest girls basketball sectional held River Forest High School Tuesday

Bowman Academy's Kailynn Steele shoots against Bishop Noll during the River Forest girls basketball sectional held at River Forest High School on Tuesday February 5, 2013. | Charles Mitchell~For Post-Tribune

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Updated: February 5, 2013 11:36PM



HOBART — Destiny is knocking on the door and Bishop Noll is looking oblige by opening it.

The Class 2A River Forest Sectional favorites took a big step forward, knocking off defending champion Bowman Academy 56-41 on Tuesday night, recording their 20th win of the season and moving one step closer to the school’s first sectional crown since 1997.

Freshmen Brenda Pennington sparked the Warriors victory, scoring 11 of her game-high 17 points in the third quarter and erasing a five-point halftime deficit. Junior guard Julia Kusiak was an assist machine recording 11 in total, while tallying four steals and six points. Freshman forward Tori Keilman also had a big second half, scoring eight of her 12 points in the final two quarters and knocking down 4-of-6 free throws.

Noll (20-2) trailed 28-23 at halftime but outscored the Eagles 38-18 the rest of the way.

Warriors coach Vanita Gary said she has a lot of confidence in her team’s ability, but also knows her team is made up primarily of juniors and freshmen and that only four players have sectional experience.

So she expected some mistakes in the early goings of this one.

“I don’t know if it was the feeling of that it was the first sectional game and that they were overwhelmed not knowing what to expect,” she said. “But as the (first half) wore on, panic started to set in. So when we went into the locker room at halftime, we talked about composure.”

Noll looked like a different team in the second half, though, as the Warriors turned the ball over a lot less and points kept going on the scoreboard. The Warriors went on a 16-2 run to open the third quarter. Pennington was a big part of that, recording a three-point play, then knocking down back-to-back 3s for Noll.

That was the ballgame.

Gary said Kusiak got the team back on its game and Pennington delivered the knockout punch.

“We talk about moving with a purpose,” Gary said of Kusiak. “I think once she got comfortable in being a threat on the court she began to attack the basket. Then she would draw that person and make the pass.

“(Brenda’s) shot was big ... it gave us some fire. It definitely picked us up. (Bowman is) definitely a strong team but that gave us some confidence.”

The Warriors continue their quest, taking on Lake Station (5-15) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the sectional semifinals; Wheeler (9-12), which defeated host River Forest, 47-29, will take on Whiting (18-3) in the first contest at 6 p.m. Friday.

The Bearcats advanced, thanks to strong efforts from Nickole Finch (20 points), Allie Stevenson (11 points) and Shannon Eden (10 points). Wheeler jumped out to a 24-4 halftime lead and never looked back.

Bomwan sophomore Joshlynn King had a monster game, recording 10 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks.



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